Olabisi Olaniran writes on @UNAIDS theme for #WorldAIDSDay – My Health, My Right

When slogans like the theme of this year’s celebration of World’s AIDS Day, “My Health, My Right” is used, it means something is not perfectly right. It is like a catchphrase for a great march against an anomaly to be corrected. It is a call to revolution; a call to revolt and a call to right a wrong. It is an assertive statement of the oppressed demanding liberty from their oppressors.

And rightly so, about 3 billion citizens of nations in the Global South have never enjoyed the basic contents of the 1946 World Health Organization Constitution and the Article 25 of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 as pertain to their health and which confer on every human being certain rights to wholesome and healthy living. Theirs have been a story of long abandonment and suffering – inequality in healthcare delivery and administration and have long been victims of protracted diseases and avoidable deaths caused by government’s despondency, poor healthcare, and misappropriation of health funds and their rights to life will celebrate this year’s World AIDS day.

Everywhere in the globe, from Ngor-Okpala to Lagos, from Accra to Abidjan, from Casablanca to Buenos Aires, from Myanmar to Kuala Lumpur and from Tokyo to Beijin, people will celebrate this theme in its different translations: “Ma Sante, Mon Droit”, “Mi Salud, Mi Derecho”, “Ilera mi, Eto mi” etc but do they really understand the weight of this theme? What really is their right to healthy, wholesome living as humans in this 21st century?

What constitutes right to healthcare and its bane in Nigeria?

In the preamble of the 1946 World Health Organization’s (WHO) constitution, health was broadly defined as “a state of complete, physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. The constitution defines the right to health as “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health” and enumerates some principles of this right as healthy child development, equitable dissemination of medical knowledge and its benefits and government-provided social measures to ensure adequate health.

The historic document officially known as the “Article 25 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 also states unequivocally that: “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services”.

What is good for the goose is also good for the gander. The human right to healthcare is not a unidirectional declaration. It encompasses the patients’ and the providers’ right in the delivery of healthcare services.

Unfortunately, patient-citizen rights to privacy, information, life, quality care, as well as freedom from discrimination, torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatments are not been upheld in Nigeria due to combination of many factors such as poor facilities, corruption, political victimization and under-funding. Rights of other groups like migrants, displaced persons, racial and ethnic minorities and those living with HIV/AIDS are been trampled upon as they are subjected to discriminatory care and violations of human rights in healthcare settings. For example, these minority groups are segregated into poorer quality wards if they are admitted at all. Disabled persons are often also abandoned or forcibly medicated in flagrant contravention of their rights.

Nigeria health care providers are one of the most under-paid and unappreciated in the world. Many Nigerian health practitioners have died untimely or contacted deadly diseases in the line of duty due to poor working tools, overwork and political affiliations and these, despite the Universal Declaration granting them the “right to quality standard of working conditions, the right to free association, and the right to perform a procedure based on their moral code. These happenings are particular to countries with weak rule of law of which Nigeria is one. Health providers are still been forced to perform procedures that negate their morals, deny opposition political figures best possible standards of care, force to breach their confidentiality and conceal crimes against humanity and torture. Often times, providers who oppose to these things are denied promotion and severely persecuted.

How much do citizens know about these rights?

In a bid to know how much citizens know about their rights to health as enshrined in the United Nations’ Charter, and how much they know about HIV/AIDS and the World’s AIDS Day, HealthNewsNG spoke to a few respondents.

Our first respondent, Mr Olapade Oluwatosin is ignorant of the existence of such declaration as the Right to Healthcare and lamented that he has never enjoyed any element of the declaration when this writer explained it to him.

About his HIV/AIDS status, Mr Olapade said: “I am negative. I have protected intercourse even with multiple partners”. He also did not have any plan to organize or participate in any World AIDS Day event.

Our second respondent, Mr Olajide Emmanuel said he was not aware of a day like the World AIDS Day. When asked by this writer whether he knew what his rights in healthcare are, he said: “he could really elucidate but related to the theme of the day as “the struggles of an average Nigerian.” Mr Olajide also revealed that though he does not currently live with HIV/AIDS, he perfectly understands the plights of those who do and will never isolate himself from them nor stigmatize them.

Miss Olanikawo Ruth, an SSS3 student of Victop College, our third respondent was also not aware of the World AIDS Day.She however, demonstrated a fair knowledge of her rights  to health as including tight to information, good healthcare etc.

When asked about her HIV status, Miss Olanikawo said: “I have not been tested but I am sure I am not positive”. She promised to organize a small event about the World AIDS day among her peers in school  

Our last respondent, Mr Onaolapo Samuel believes it is his right to live healthily as a citizen of Nigeria. He equally demonstrated a knowledge of the other rights and the World’s AIDS day.

When asked about what he will do if he contracts HIV/AIDS, he fired: “God forbid! [But] I will feel sad and take the news with good strides and start using drugs that will make me lead a normal life.”

From the foregoing, it is obvious that many Nigerians are oblivious of their rights to good health conditions and care and also demonstrate surface knowledge of HIV/AIDS and the World AIDS day.

There is need for health policy formulators, HIV/AIDS right activists, advocates and health workers to work more in staging sensitization campaigns, awareness programs and every other means through which citizens can be educated about their health rights, HIV/AIDS and other sundry health issues.

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olabisi.olaniran@healthnews.ng'

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